The Maharashtra government is positive about reopening cinema halls and theatres from October 15, but its priority is to ensure safety of citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state Cultural Affairs Minister Amit Deshmukh said on Thursday.
According to reports, the first couple of movies to be released on the big screen include Akshay Kumar-starrer 'Sooryavanshi', Daniel Craig-starrer James Bond film 'No Time To Die', and Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet'.
However, Reliance Entertainment Group CEO Sibashish Sarkar told PTI it is not practically possible to release "Sooryavanshi" on Diwali. "One thing is clear; we are not releasing any film on Diwali. No other decision has been taken. It is not possible to release a film on Diwali now. As of now, all cinema houses are not opening from October 15. Even if it opens on November 1, how can you release a film in 10- or 15-days’ notice period?"
During a meeting with representatives of the Theatre Owners Association, Deshmukh said he would discuss the matter with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat.
Cinema halls and theatres have been shut since last six months in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday issued new guidelines for permitting more activities in areas outside the containment zones that include opening up cinemas, theatres and multiplexes with up to 50 per cent of their seating capacity from October 15.
However, the state government in its latest lockdown guidelines on Wednesday said cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres in malls and market places, auditoriums, assembly halls will continue to remain closed.
"When we reopen them (cinema halls and theatres), utmost priority will be given to the safety of citizens. The state government is positive regarding their reopening and I would discuss the same with Thackeray, Ajit Pawar and Thorat," Deshmukh said.
"Dussehra, Diwali, Christmas are the time when people make a beeline for theatres and cinema halls. This is a good time to restart them. The government is thinking how to reopen them as people's health and safety is paramount," he said.
Deshmukh said at present, phase 5 of the unlock process is underway wherein hotels, restaurants, bars have been allowed to open in the state, but cinema halls and theatres will remain closed.
During the meeting, representatives of the Theatre Owners Association highlighted the problems they are facing, like license renewal, electricity bills and property tax, during the lockdown period.
The Multiplex Association of India (MAI) welcomed the government's decision. "Millions of movie lovers and employees of the cinema exhibition sector along with the entire film industry were eagerly awaiting this announcement," said MAI in a statement.
"We are committed to ensure a safe, secure and hygienic cinema-going experience for the movie lovers of our country. As always, we will continue to assign top-most priority to the health and well-being of our guests and employees."
MAI said urgent permission from State governments to reopen cinemas will go a substantial distance in ensuring that the cinema exhibition sector is able to quickly recover from the dire economic and financial impact of the epidemic.
Reports say the revenue loss to film exhibition industry was to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore per month due to closure of cinema halls.
With inputs from Agencies